Looking for someplace to spend quiet time alone? This deserted Connecticut mill town is just the ticket – as long as you don’t mind the company of a few ghosts.
Johnsonville, which is actually located in the midst of East Haddam, was a small, but thriving mill town established in 1802. The community was home to the Neptune Twine and Cord Mill that made binding rope for fishing, and used the Moodus River nearby as a power source.
“Back in the day, the mills would create their own towns to house their employees to keep them safe and close by,” says Sherri Milkie, who holds the property’s listing with William Pitt and Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty. “There were houses and a little church and school [in Johnsonville].”
The mill was successful until it was struck by lightning and burned in 1972. After the fire left the town deserted, Raymond Schmitt, a successful aerospace manufacturer who had purchased the entire parcel in the 1960s, began to restore the town to its former beautiful Victorian glory.
Schmitt routinely opened the town to visitors, and several weddings were even hosted in the picturesque setting, but it was never an official tourist destination. He also brought in antique buildings from other parts of the country to add to the vintage charm of the town.
The town changes hands
When Schmitt died in 1998, his estate sold off some of the antique pieces he had acquired, which included some of the buildings in the town.
With no one to care for it, Johnsonville began to decay, and sat empty until hotel management company Meyer Jabara purchased it about 10 years ago with the idea of turning it into a senior citizen community.
However, plans changed as the economy wavered, and development stalled, once again leaving the town deserted.
Now, the entire town of Johnsonville, which includes 62 acres of land, four Victorian-era houses, a school, a church, an old post office, and several retail buildings, including a restaurant, are up for sale for an adventurous buyer, with a listing price of $1.9 million.
The permanent residents
Along with the sprawling acreage and historic buildings, Johnsonville’s buyers will also be inheriting some ghosts – or at least the stories that people have about them.
It’s rumored that the ghosts of mill workers haunt one house on the property. The sightings have been in the parlor area, where bodies were customarily laid out before they were buried.
Others have seen Schmitt’s ghost around the property, undoubtedly walking around the beloved town that he wanted so much to preserve.
Loaded with potential
Whether they’re interested in the town for its investment opportunity, its ghost sightings, or to continue Schmitt’s vision of restoring the Victorian village, Milkie hopes interested buyers will be excited about the endless possibilities for the property.
“This is an area that’s really popular for tourism,” she notes. “I could see someone opening a local brewpub, because there’s lots of open space for growing hops. You could also monopolize on having the lake with some rides, or open a farm-to-table restaurant and bed-and-breakfast featuring organic and homegrown vegetables.”
When the prospective buyer takes on Johnsonville, they will not only be getting a whole town, but also a small piece of pop culture. Johnsonville may look familiar to some as the setting for Billy Joel’s music video for “River of Dreams,” or from some scenes of the 2014 film “Freedom” starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
Photos courtesy of William Pitt and Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty.
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